No Loans Today (1995): Lisanne Skyler’s Sundance Docu

Sundance Film Festival 1995–Centering on the ABC Loan Co., a pawnshop and check-cashing outlet in South Central L.A., No Loans Today is a disappointingly amorphous docu that curiously doesn’t involve in its interesting story.

Despite relevant issues, lack of sharp dramatic focus should restrict the one-hour docu to regional film festivals, with some prospects for TV airings.

A 25-year-old operation, the ABC Loan serves as pawnshop and check-cashing outlet (also known as “fringe Banks”). Using the store as its central location, docu conducts interviews with its owner and manager, who discuss the “rules of the game,” “fair” procedures meant to service its customers.

Owner talks about his customers’ psychological mentality, their “fear of bigger institutions” and inability to get loans from legit banks. Some people routinely frequent the place, usually toward the end of the month, when falling short of cash. To better assist its clients’ needs, ABC accepts birth certificates and traffic tickets for those lacking driving license and other conventional I.D.s. The pawnshop was tremendously damaged during the l992 riots, resulting in a 50 percent decrease in business. Some of the shelves are still empty, waiting to be stuffed with merchandise that had been stolen.

No Loans Today aims to explore the economic and political marginalization of South Central’s residents as they go about their daily lives. Some background info is related about the history of the neighborhood, which at one time was vibrant with businesses and social centers. The recent riots, however, and the resultant economic problems of unemployment and recession changed the community forever.

Though some of the personal stories are poignant and heartbreaking, docu suffers from a tedious structure of interviews that are not interrelated, thus failing to form a portrait of life in South Central at present.

Credits

Produced, directed by Lisanne Skyler. Co-producer, Fatima Cortez. Consulting producer, Dr. Herbert Avery. Camera (16mm color), Federico Salsano; still photography, Pamela Gentile; editors, Mark Redpath, Skyler; music, Paul Scriver, Rex Taylor Smith; sound, Marcio Camara, Ramin Lebaschi.

Running time: 56 minutes.